Stephen King on the Craft of Short Story Writing

Stephen King on the Craft of Short Story Writing



while we're sitting here with Stephen King author most recently of just after sunset which is a collection of short stories you write an introduction in the book which talks about the fact that short stories are sort of an art form that not everybody and not a lot of writers tackle anymore and that you mentioned is something that you can sort of lose your touch it's the kind of thing where I think a lot of writers who sell a fair number of copies and can support themselves though with their writing and we're very fortunate to be able to do that have a tendency to think of the novel and once you get your mind set on the novel it's very easy to lose whatever trick it is that involves writing the short story there's a little metaphor in the introduction where I said that I could imagine some craftsman from the Middle Ages forgetting how to make Toledo steel and just looking sort of sadly and a botched job and saying I really used to remember how to make this stuff and I think too that the novel is a quagmire then a lot of younger writer stumble into before they're they're ready to go there so that there was a piece and maybe PW or one of the magazine's one of the magazines associated with writing and publishing a couple of weeks ago where their columnist said there is some I know was in the Boston Globe where this lady said enumerated a number of great short story writers who have not written any short stories for a while and you ask in that why and the same reason is given time after time well I'm writing a novel and so the short story production dries up now for me I started with short stories when I was 18 so my first one when I was about 20 and produced pretty much nothing but while I wrote a couple of novels but they were not accepted and a lot of them were so bad that I didn't even bother to revise them but the short stories will make money and I got very comfortable with that format and I've never wanted to leave it completely behind here's some people who write who write short stories talk about the fact that in their mind you're there right they have these massive novels written about these characters but really what you see on the page is just a sliver of a story that's in their brain that they could tell it they could write a novel about it in most cases so now what what is true and what happens to me a lot of times is I will start out saying this would be a terrific short story idea and it balloons and becomes a novel misery started as a short story and Gerald's game started as a short story those were things that I thought would be small and grew to a size where they would be a novel but on the other hand there's a story and there're three stories in just after sunset that are fairly long they're in the 22 to 25 thousand word length which would make them novelist as one called a very tight place there's another one called the gingerbread girl that was done in Esquire and there is an which has not been published before and in fact n was submitted to the New Yorker and I had a sense that they thought about the story very seriously and sort of wanted it for The New Yorker but finally what they came back with was this is just too long for the market so that can present a problem there really is that length of 22 to 25 thousand words is kind of a Twilight Zone for writers it's it's too short to be a novel but it's too long to be a short story and the real short stories that that very talented short story writers like Raymond Carver are able to write this almost an art of minier miniaturization that's involved it's a it's a difficult it's a difficult craft you

39 Comments

  • Gnome Queen says:

    King is one of the elder gods, right up there with Stan Lee, Bob Ross and Jim henson

  • Mark Rodriguez says:

    I didn't think Misery had started out as a short story,Stephen. I'd read part of it and I love the movie. Kathy Bates is good. That's why she'd got an OSCAR for best acting in a lead role.

  • Kasper Soldal Nielsen says:

    I've been focusing more on flash-fiction between 500-1000 words, and it's ridiculous how much you can end up cramming into such a tiny space.

  • Brainwashed? Subscribe for the Truth says:

    I think you should consider this on list.
    https://www.amazon.com/Lighting-world-thrice-single-resting/dp/1796205311/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_product_top?ie=UTF8

  • The Sleep Tapes says:

    Still so humble after so long.

  • Major Seven says:

    His glasses are too small for his head.

  • Kaela Creighton says:

    IDK. I'm better at short stories than I am at novels. This has to do with my disability. I can write novels, not good enough to support myself, but it's a violent process for me. I cannot seem to write a novel for adults. I'll try again at the end of the summer. I'll have to pump myself up with some hardcore reading.

  • Deanobeany says:

    I'm months away from 30, never perused further education after leaving school but I've had a multitude of ideas and characters buzzing around my head, is it worth getting into writing? Or should I accept that the window has closed?

  • Beautiful and Motivated says:

    Wow! Stephen King said his short stories were bad. This gives me hope and says to never give up!😊

  • Floris Brussaard says:

    Who else but Quagmire?!
    He's Quagmire, Quagmire

    You never really know what
    He's gonna do next
    He's Quagmire, QuagmirE
    Giggity-giggity-giggity-giggity, let's have sex!

  • John Smith says:

    The ending of IT is the worst writing ever… so lazy…

  • Xiphane X says:

    Terribly sorry Mr. King, however, I disagree with you completely on these points, apart from your experience of what writers say. 🙂

    Love your work though I'll never forgive you for the end of CUJO.

  • Jennifer Saunders says:

    Thank u for your life's work. And thank u for deciding not to give up or retire. We luv u, Stephen King!

  • Nautilus1972 says:

    It's incredible . .1.3K subscribers … and there he is ….

  • Jason Phoenix says:

    I really needed this. I have been writing a short story for a while now and was afraid to post it online due to the fact that everywhere I researched, it said that short stories were not valued much. Well, if Stephen King says its worth it, no one is going to stop me now.

  • Gregg Trainer says:

    Joel Osteen book in the back 👎🏼

  • Chellesly says:

    For those interested in craft books, James Wood wrote one titled How Fiction Works, a requirement for a fiction writing class I took in college, and it has real merit. The man's a major critic for literary fiction and has an eye like few others.

  • Isaac Campos says:

    25 thousand words too much? Is that counting articulations such as "and", "so", etc?

  • Nintariz says:

    For me, short stories are like vacation time. They're what I write when I want to take a break.

  • Julie Zona-Rhoda says:

    My mom has all the books except 2!!

  • Kay Badr says:

    The Shining is my fav along with Pet Sematary
    Both scared the crap out of me .

  • Billy Reed Music says:

    I love Stephen Kings writing style. Brilliant man!

  • steven lawton says:

    The Gingerbread Girl is an absolutely fantastic story.

  • Nagaraj Timalapur says:

    My favorite Stephen Hawking book is Harry Potter and the secrets of dark tower

  • Trumpet Player says:

    So, how many words does a short story contain typically?

  • DarkThirty813 says:

    Started a horror short piece tonight, taking a brief break, and found this video helpful. Thanks!

  • Zach Reynoldson says:

    I struggle to stretch my stuff out at all, and end up with a product way too short

  • Bridgette Campbell says:

    I only write short stories. I am up to 56 so far. I aim for about 1200 words. I usually have a mental bloc at around 500 words then I have to have a lie down in a hot bath for inspiration ……or even ideas. For anyone that's interested I write in the first person I aim for a readership of girls aged about 10 -16. I write in the vernacular as young girls speak a completely different language to most of us…………………..that's for anyone that's interested

  • Im ok! AK Davis says:

    If there was anyone of whom I had the honor to sit and talk with about life.. it is, King.

  • Shan says:

    Someway, somehow, blur that damn smiling face of charlatan Joel Osteen on the book cover behind the interviewer.

  • TheKeithvidz says:

    I read about his short fiction in wikipedia. I myself have 2 Amazon collections. I write novels but find myself doing a ton of shorts several months before i tackle the next.
    i did two collections – 'the hardest why hold back?' and 'Adventure season.' In amazon.

  • Tales of Iniquity says:

    Does anyone just have the list of the thousands of ideas you thought were genius when you initially thought it them, or a loose plot that you’ve just never expanded ?

  • DivaNove says:

    i wrote an action sci fy. i narrate it on my channel. its called once upon a moonbeam

  • monstersince says:

    books of blood

  • B. Lloyd Reese says:

    His short stories are better than his novels

  • Miles Trombley says:

    Most authors think that writing a short story is hard.

  • Hannah King says:

    I've never written a short story before, never been that good at it, but I've finally decided to do it and that it will help my writing a lot. It's just a very daunting task, doing something I've never done before -so trying to get all the advice I can.

  • El Krafto says:

    The interviewer looks like Perez Hilton. AM I RIGHT!?

  • Matt White Wolf says:

    As someone who primarily writes short fiction (short stories and chapbooks), I love this. Stephen King is a master with both short fiction and novels, and whatever you wish to write, you can learn a lot listening to him discuss the craft.

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